Tag Archives: Tyson Chandler

Knicks Hawks postgame

If some of you thought that watching the Knicks/Hawks on Saturday was rough, consider this cruel and unusual punishment: knowing what happened, I still went to the DVR and dug out the game and watched it.  Of course I did that to give you all the crucial 10 random thoughts about the game so let’s get to it.

Melo driving on the Hawks via yahoosports.com

Melo driving on the Hawks
via yahoosports.com

1.  The Knicks fifth straight loss at home, came in probably the most embarrassing fashion yet.  In a game against a team they had beaten just three days prior the Knicks looked unable to stop the Atlanta offense from doing whatever they wanted.  Which brings us to Carmelo Anthony’s postgame assertion that the Knicks are not showing the effort necessary to cut it.  I think every Knick fan sees it in the lackadaisical way they go about it on defense and how teams are so easily able to get into the paint where many times you will find one to zero defenders commandeering that valuable piece of real estate.

Melo’s “lack of effort” rant came on the heels of one of his better performances.  Smart.  You can’t watch Saturday’s game and say that Melo was the cause.  He fought for rebounds.  He went inside and he truly battled out there.  He was not the guy lacking in his effort.  I’m not saying that Melo’s accusation is off base, I just find it curious that he be vocal about his team’s effort in probably his best “effort” game.  Carmelo was the only player on the Knicks starting five to NOT record a +/- in double digits.  Rebounding last year was a huge problem and an even greater cause for concern with Tyson Chandler out but Saturday’s concerted effort on the glass was the lone encouraging sign for the Knicks.  Its clear that the Knicks are going to have to start collectively doing things that they left for Tyson to handle like rebounding and protecting the rim.  For a team with a collective group of bad one on one defenders, the Knicks can not afford to lose a guy like Tyson for an extended period of time.

2a. In the latest bit of Daily News vs. New York Knicks drama unfolding on an almost daily basis comes this little nugget: Apparently the Daily News knows what Iman Shumpert did this summer.  In the second such move the Knicks elected not to disclose for public consumption, Iman Shumpert had a second arthroscopic procedure on the same knee that he injured.   This will obviously effect any trade value he may possess which is important because it seems as though the Knicks are determined to trade him for two reasons:

A. He’s their only asset that teams will be interested in.

B. The Knicks are tired of waiting for his offense to develop and some within the organization feel as though his defense may have regressed.

While it may be true that he is one of the few assets the Knicks have that teams would think twice about, his value isnt anywhere close at this point to being able to bring back something meaningful.  According to the latest, the Knicks are trying hard to get Rajon Rondo from the rebuilding Celtics.  Its a nice thought but I doubt Danny Ainge, the Celts GM, will budge on the package that is rumored to be on the table of Shump, Ray Felton and Amar’e Stoudemire.  While Shumpert’s early stats don’t show vast improvement the eye test says his form has vastly improved and virtually every wide open look has seemingly been a make.  Eventually his 40.1% rate will improve but that has more to do with the changes the Knicks must make to the offense, and not anything Shump is or isn’t doing.

Secondly, the problem with the development argument is that this iteration of the Knicks have been unwilling to wait for young players to grow and more or less have treated draft picks like goodies to wave in front of teams looking to get younger and rebuild.  James Dolan feels this team can win a championship now and that means they need to get better players in here and the only way to do that is via trade.  Even if Shump were to show the improvement necessary to make that leap the Knicks brain trust would like, it seems like the Knicks have talked themselves into trading Shump away.

2b.  While most Knick fans are fiercely loyal to Shump- and there’s a lot to like- Shumpert is one of those players that are overrated and underrated at the very same time.  He’s overrated by a fan base that looks at Shump- the only young player that can play defense which happen to be the two things the Knicks don’t have much of- as a homegrown talent they envision being a superstar.  Last year the Knicks had the oldest collective roster in the NBA which made Shumpert’s absence sad and return a much needed gift.  New York basketball fans are split into two warring camps: the group of snarly veterans who wonder where the 1970’s Red Holzman style of basketball went and the group of fans who bring the playground mentality to the professional game.  Shump pleases both segments of the population but I wonder if they both overrate his ability as a defender.

His wingspan allows him to invade passing lanes just by having his hands up or spread wide.  His size allows him to defend multiple positions.  He rarely leaves his feet and does a good job of staying in front of quick guards.  Those are the positives.  The negatives are that he hasn’t played like that guy yet.  The obvious go-to excuse is that he’s another Knick  recovering from injury and that’s a major part of the equation.  The other part is that Shump seems to take more responsibility for the defense on his shoulders because of Tyson Chandler’s absence.  He wants to be the anchor but its not easy for a perimeter defender to be the defensive anchor.  Shump lost a bit of athleticism that we can’t be sure he will ever recover after his ACL tear.  And for a guy who uses his freakish athletic ability to defend other players, its going to take some time for Shump to get back to where we thought he would be.  Call this a case of a guy who has put a ton of added pressure to be the man on himself and by a team that probably views him as expendable.

3.  I hate to say it but Amar’e Stoudemire has a point.  Prior to Saturday’s game he voiced his displeasure at the minutes distribution he was receiving by Coach Woodson which to be fair is what he should say.  Remember, he’s a $20 million player with a ton of pride and it can’t be easy to be playing five to nine minutes a game when he was once a cornerstone player.  No matter what you think, one day we may look at the Amar’e tenure as one of promises not kept but not the way in which you think.  Amar’e was the sole prize of the two year tank job that Dolan was somehow convinced to go through in hopes that Lebron James would come to New York to rescue basketball here.  But when the smoke cleared it was Amar’e standing in front of the Mecca screaming to the basketball world that the Knicks were back.  And the first half of his first season as a Knick he played his heart out and was a MVP candidate.  Then came the trade for Carmelo Anthony and since that time its been one lowlight after another and its been a steady decline for Amar’e.  Yes, injuries have decimated and destroyed the remaining bits of athleticism he once had but the Knicks haven’t done him any favors.  Their personnel decisions have done him no favors by tying up their salary cap with guys  who either need the ball all the time (Melo) or need someone to create for them (Tyson Chandler) leaving Amar’e as yesterday’s news.  Think about it, even Andrea Bargnani is a higher priority in the Knick offense than he is and he just walked in the door five minutes ago.  A far cliff to fall off for a guy who just three years ago was the Knicks.

This falls on Woodson.  His coaching decisions have bordered on horrible this year and he now needs to rectify this.  I don’t think Amar’e is done but I do think he needs to rest Amar’e till he’s fully healthy and regains some explosion  (he had a few instances where old Amar’e came back which holds promise) rather than throwing out the ghost of Amar’e past for five to nine minutes a game.  Its not fair to Amar’e who’s right, you can’t expect a player to gain any type of continuity by being put on the floor for such limited reps.  It does him no good and does Kenyon Martin no good, the other guy sentenced to playing time time-out.

4. Speaking of coaching that needs to happen, Woodson needs to begin to entertain the possibility of going to a zone defense.  The current scheme of having players rotate and switch on the pick and roll isn’t working because a lot of the Knicks aren’t good individual defensive players which makes it tough for them to excel with such a physically demanding defensive scheme.  Simplifying the defense to a zone for the time being while Tyson is out may have to happen for the sake of the Knicks defense and the players who have to play it.  I’ve spoken to Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal via Twitter timelines about Woodson’s stubbornness and lack of willingness to adapt to his team’s situation which is frankly troubling and sad.  Last year’s success had a lot to do with Woodson’s second half adjustments and that just hasn’t happened this year.  Its still early but another few more games of the same matador D as Clyde likes to call it, and Woody may need to think up something.

5. J.R. Smith is in the midst of a historically bad shooting slump.  Last year he was magic off the bench and many times carried the Knicks through large swaths of Carmelo-less time.  This year, inserted into the starting lineup, his effectiveness has been limited.  Add to it his ineffectiveness during playoff time, his increasingly annoying twitter feed, and his start this year, its easy to see why even Coach Woodson easily his biggest supporter (clearly not in the organization- thanks Chris Smith) has said that nobody will want to deal with him.  The problem is, with shooters you ride the highs and lows. While he doesn’t have the rep of a great high volume shooter he is judged by those standards and so I expect him to get out of this rut.  One way to do it may be to get him back in a familiar role so he can rediscover his big play potential.

6. I want every Knick fan to stop dreaming of a Rondo deal.  Its not going to happen.  You hear me?  Not.  Gonna.  Happen.  The Celts would never deal a former franchise star to the Knicks.  The Knicks dont have anything past Shump and Hardaway Jr to offer.  And frankly, I don’t know how Melo and Rondo would play nice with each other.  Also, why would you want to trade an asset like Amar’e Stoudemire who will turn into a $20 million expiring which could be used to make a massive trade deadline deal (hey Kevin Love) next year.

7. Who would’ve thought that Andrea Bargnani’s one on one defense would actually be impressive?  True story.  He did a pretty solid job on another elite big man in Al Horford.  He once again bodied up a big man who thought Bargs would just relent, but that hasn’t happened yet.  Obviously his reputation as a lackluster defensive player and his European background (black players look at Euro players as soft- right KG?) make players feel as though they can abuse Bargs but he’s been giving it as good as he takes.  Horford had 12 points and 2 rebounds while Bargs dropped 16 and grabbed 9 rebounds, (4 offensive!!).  Steady improvement.

8.  Again, I’m not overly concerned with the recent losing streak as most are.  I see good signs.  The offense is still stagnant and it has too many one on ones but that can all be worked out.  The Knicks will have a run this season in which they look competent.  The stuff in the background that’s happening is good.  Melo and Bargs seem to play well off each other.  Woodson just needs to put Amar’e in there for more minutes and use Kenyon Martin in the middle to impede the foot traffic through the painted area and the Knicks will start seeing a lot less paint jobs and force teams to play for perimeter shots.  Tim Hardaway Jr is getting valuable playing time and he’s not disappointing- as cocky as his father was.  Thinks he can make every shot.  J.R. will make his shots as the season goes on.  If you get the Melo that was setting up shop under the basket like he did on Saturday the Knicks will be good.  Expecting that on a daily basis is a bit much but Melo is such a talented offensive player that some nights he won’t need to work so hard for shots underneath the basket, the greater return on his hard play will be the impact it has on his teammates to exert similar effort.  Just please, ABORT the hideous orange unis.  PLEASE!

9. The Nets lost, which means the Knicks are one game out of first place in the Atlantic Division.

1o.  AND STILL I SAY #KNICKSTAPE!

 

 

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Knicks/Rockets postgame

A few thoughts about the Knicks following yet another narrow loss to the Houston Rockets:

Howard and Bargs battling

Howard and Bargs battling
Courtesy of Washingtonpost.com

1.  I fully expected this game to be a blowout considering Tyson Chandler’s absence and a true legitimate big man at the 5 playing across from Bargnani.   So pardon the collective surprise of the NBA viewing republic when the stat sheet came out and Bargs was outplaying the “last real center alive”.  Dwight ended the game with 7 points and 15 rebounds while Bargnani finished with 24 points and 5 rebounds.  While points and rebounds won’t completely tell the tale, consider that Bargs was a +7 for the night while Dwight was a -1 on the all important +/- scale of measuring one’s importance to a team’s outcome on any given night.  Bargs was not shy of bodying up with Howard who seemed surprised by Bargs aggressive and effective play.

2. I’m a fan of Chandler Parsons as are any folk who know anything about basketball.  Parsons has an innate sense of cutting and passing and has a great ball fake that almost always causes defenders to leave their feet.  On this team he’s a perfect third and even fourth option on most nights.  He’s also a willing contributor, a term I give to players who are happy to be around better players and completely understanding of their position on the pecking order.  While Parsons usually gets stats-heavy geeks frothing at the mouth, any NBA fan can tell you that you need one of those guys on your team.  His ball fake and extra pass on the final HOU possession (not counting the last two where they had to hit free throws) led to the James Harden foul on the three point shot.  He easily could’ve shot that after the ball fake pried him loose of the defender but he knew to get the ball to the open star of the team because that’s what you pay them to do: hit big shots when it counts.  Parsons wont ever earn a max extension but he’s a vital cog on any team hoping to contend.

3. Which leads me to the guy who fouled Harden on that fateful play.  Ray Felton has taken a step back in his defensive ability this season; an ability that was played up too much last season.  Felton has deceptive speed for a guy who looks like someone who walks into the gym and sits by the juice bar the entire time.  Felton fell straight into Harden when all he had to do was to do a swing by.  This is the problem with the switch-happy, help heavy defense that Woodson employs.  It forces players with bad defensive reactions to make you guessed it, bad defensive reactions.  To fall straight into Harden, a guy who will fall to the floor if a breeze blew hard enough, gave him the authority to initiate the contact necessary to force the zebras to blow the whistle.

4. Bargnani has played three consecutive good games which leads to the eventual fateful decision that Woodson has to make when Tyson Chandler returns.  Does he stick with the big frontcourt of Chandler, Melo and Bargs?  Or does he make Bargnani the sixth man and keep only two of Melo, Bargs, and Chandler, on the court at once?  It would make sense that they not combine the three.  I’m not going to fault Woody for going to the super big line up for a few more games before making an astute decision but there’s still almost 4-6 weeks to go before Tyson is slated to come back so there’s plenty of time for Woodson to stew and make up his mind.  In the meantime consider that since Tyson went out  in the home loss to the Bobcats, Bargs is averaging 21.3 points, 6 rebounds and a +1 rating.  If you take out that atrocity of a Spurs loss his averages would look even better: 23 ppg, 7.7 rebounds, and a cumulative +27 rating or a +9 rating average.  Many would blame it on the spacing that a defensive minded center like Tyson takes away from the Knicks offense (the same reason that many thought the Amar’e, Tyson and Melo front court couldn’t work), but its worth wondering if this four game sample is indicative of how this offense will continue to go if you remove ONE of the three from the line up.

5a.  Metta World Peace continues to struggle offensively that its difficult sometimes to watch him with the ball without

Knicks and Rockets get testy

Knicks and Rockets get testy

screaming at the television to pass the ball.  At the end of the day though Metta’s impact on the floor won’t be offensively, though whatever he gives will be a plus.  Metta’s impact will be on both establishing a tougher mindset by being an intimidating presence on the court, and also being a defensive presence.  In years past the Knicks would’ve raised arms and admitted defeat by the second quarter of that T-Wolves game when after the first quarter the Knicks were down 41-19, but the Knicks made a game of it once Metta came in the game.  I’m not saying he was the reason the Knicks almost won the game but he was a big presence on the court that slowed the Wolves down and forced some turnovers.  His +17 in that game is eye opening.  Even in games like the ones with the Bulls where their physicality would’ve normally forced the Knicks into submission they hung in there until D. Rose hit that impossible floater over two Knicks to give the Bulls a one point game.

5b. Last year the Knicks were 22-17 in games decided by five points or less.  Which was good for 15th in the NBA.  This year they are 2-4 which is good for 17th in the NBA.  Last year most observers would agree was the best of almost every possible scenario for the Knicks which led to their 54 win season.  This year their early season struggles are being attributed to regression to the mean.  While its still early one of the things I expect to happen is for the Knicks to win more close games.  Of course this has as much to do with health as anything so in the next 4-6 weeks they may pile a few more losses without a defensive presence like Tyson Chandler who says this year he’s healthier than he was last year.  Call it more of a guess based on a gut feeling rather than any statistical measure.

5c.  Which brings me to the recent conversation started by Matt Barnes in-the-heat-of-the-moment tweet with the n-word included.  Barnes expressed frustration at his teammates and having to constantly come to their aid and in a roundabout way called his teammates soft.  Which, if you wanted to make the case about the Knicks- was also true last year.  Teams often played aggressive with Melo hoping to take him out of the game with no real enforcer to tell them to knock it off which necessitated the Kenyon Martin grab at the end of the season.  The Knicks doubled down with Metta this year and though the record may not reflect it, have reaped some reward out of Metta and Kenyon’s presence.  With Chandler out teams may see fit to treat the paint like the runway at JFK, but having guys like Kenyon and Metta can atleast be some point of resistance for lesser tough guys to just use and abuse the painted area of the court.  While most celebrate KG’s toughness as a necessary component for the Nets to really make noise this year, its important to use Metta and Kenyon in spots where necessary- like now.  To play zone and have them guard the rim and let people know that if they must drive to the paint, expect a few hard fouls.  If you’re foolish enough to repeatedly absorb that kind of punishment do so at your own discretion.  The record may not show it, but time will ultimately prove these two free agent acquisitions right.

6. Tough losses early in the year are a little easier to stomach for a number of reasons.  Usually teams are nursing stars back from injuries so their usage stats will show that they aren’t really playing a high volume of minutes.  Despite having a pre-season teams are still figuring out lineup configurations like the Knicks.  Players who aren’t physically ready for the season need time to round themselves into shape.  Bad teams don’t know they are bad and jump on good teams who aren’t expecting it.  The Knicks really only fall into one of those categories but its easy to get caught up in an early season swoon given how quickly the Knicks jumped out of the gate last year.  Their quick start helped them weather the expected mid-season swoon and ultimately led them to a solid stretch run-run.  It will be interesting to see if the Knicks catch fire in the middle of the season and still have a late season surge.

7. James Harden doesn’t seem like the most popular player on his team.  While he was down on the court not too many teammates came to check on him.  Add that to Dwight Howard’s fake ass routine you can see why the Rockets haven’t jumped out the gate.  Clearly the OKC/HOU trade worked out more for Houston because it helped convince Dwight to choose the Rockets over the Lakers last summer.  But one has to wonder if Harden’s ability to win championships wouldn’t have been served better by being on OKC’s roster.  Both front offices are forward thinking organizations who don’t operate under burdensome ownership groups.  Both have several assets at all times to make a huge trade and both teams are not shy at making big deals if it serves the interest of winning a championship.  Houston’s game plan of accumulating assets has now worked in their favor again.  Omer Asik is demanding a trade and according to the sage Adrian Woj, the Rockets are shopping Asik for either “an impact player or a lottery pick”.  If they get either consider it a steal but its worth noting that its the right move to make.   You have to ask for the sun, moon and the stars when you have an asset the likes of Asik- a young cost controlled defensive center.   Imagine they get a 2014 first round pick from a team that may wind up in the lottery thanks to an ownership group desperate to make a run at the playoffs?  Think Charlotte who have two 2014 protected first round draft picks (they traded their own to Chicago- Lord help them), or Memphis who have opened the season rather sluggish and may need to reconfigure their roster and send a bad contract out (think Zack Randolph).  Keep an eye out.

8.  Speaking of the Dwightmare, its almost inexcusable how much he struggled against the defense of Andrea Bargnani.  Don’t adjust your screen you read right!  Dwight wasn’t able to muscle in the paint and very rarely plays aggressive.  He plays mad and usually that leads to inexcusable turnovers or very poor decisions.  Charles Barkley’s disbelief that now playing for an organization that has Hakeem on the payroll and Kevin McHale as his coach was a tad bit early though.  McHale and Hakeem had more post moves than a mailman working during Christmas time, but that kind of foundational training takes time.  But now this would make those two the third and fourth Hall of Fame post players who Dwight has had access to on a daily basis since he came into the league and he’s STILL this bad?  Patrick Ewing (Orlando), and Kareem Abdul Jabbar (Lakers) haven’t helped Dwight realize his potential.  At some point the whispers and rumors that Dwight is as bad and overrated as we are seeing off the floor as on the floor may in fact be coming true.  He has to get something going.  In my opinion, he and Lebron James are the only two players who can physically overwhelm opponents.  It took time for Lebron to figure out how and when and it may be that Dwight just needed the right complement of superstars around him.  Lets see if Dwight figures it out when we check back in later this year.

9. I would be remiss and not fulfilling my journalistic duty if I were to ignore the return of Linsanity to Madison Square Garden.  Look, I’m on record as saying that letting Lin walk was dumb for virtually every reason you can wonder.  But let’s not rehash the past.  Its nice to see him develop at the old age of 25 and mostly its his jump shot that has developed.  Looks pure and just so much more polished.  He also saved his best for last shooting 4 of 6 in the final quarter to help lead the Rockets to the win.  Lin is out of the starting line up and ultimately it will be the best thing for him to develop his game playing with either Harden or Howard rather than in tandem for now.  He’s shooting better than 50% from three which will eventually come down but if his 3pt FG% steadies at over 40%,  it will be much tougher to clog up lanes and defend both Lin and Harden who’s first inclination is to drive to the basket and score.  If you keep Lin, Parsons, Harden and Howard, all you need is a competent 2nd big who can grab rebounds or have soft hands to collect easy passes in the paint that will result when the defense collapses to close on one of Harden or Lin driving to the hoop.  The home run move would be Houston picking Phoenix’s pocket for Channing Frye a big who can stretch defenses even further because of his ability to stroke the three.  Of course that would be a perfect scenario for Houston but not that unrealistic.  Phoenix’s GM Ryan McDonough is doing what Darryl Morey would in his position: accumulate assets, draft well and stock up for a big move.  With potentially four first round picks in 2014, a draft being  compared to the one in  2003 draft in terms of depth of impact talent the Suns are positioned to really rebuild very quickly.  Getting an Asik for Frye deal would be great but that won’t happen because McDonough is looking to shed salary rather than take on more.  Frye for a 2014 first round pick would be glorious for McDonough but I doubt Morey is looking to trade out of this draft of all places.  Doesn’t seem like a match but based purely on basketball, it makes all the sense in the world.

10. And still i say #KNICKSTAPE

More coming later….

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Headlines 1/8/2013

After a day’s vacation, I come back to you knowing that you were all withheld from critical information regarding the sporting universe.   So here I am back to give you the news with my opinion as only I can.  Saturday opened with the news that renowned orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James Andrews never cleared Robert Griffin the third to come back into the game in which he originally injured his LCL despite the opposite coming from Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan.  Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports wrote that he did himself and his team a disservice by keeping RGIII in that game.  Les Carpenter of Yahoo Sports writes that maybe Mike Shanahan needs a no man.  Jarrett Bell of USAToday wrote that perhaps this is what life with RGIII will always be like: Risk vs. reward.

I will write more about this subject later on today, but the fact is, most people agree that RGIII should’ve been taken out at some point in the game, long before he was ever actually scraped off the field.  When we finally saw his knee buckle and RGIII lying motionless on the ground it only served to confirm everything the viewing public had seen.  He wasn’t right at any point of that game and he was becoming a liability.  On the other hand, this is the playoffs and suddenly being down 21-14 probably called upon your best player to rise to the occasion which he really tried to do.  What most people won’t understand is Shanahan’s motivation for keeping him in the game.  During the game, I tweeted at 14-13 that if Seattle scores, maybe it should turn to Kirk Cousins because after the first two series, the Redskins just were never the same and the momentum had squarely fell on the Seahawks who had got back to playing sound defensively.  

Much of yesterday was spent breaking down what role Mike Shanahan played in RGIII’s knee being destroyed.  Today will be spent in analyzing the results of RGIII’s MRI which Dr. Andrews will take a look at.  Dr Andrews not wanting RGIII back in that game speaks volumes about how injured RGIII was and how Shanahan is either lying to himself to keep RGIII out there or he just doesn’t care how he wins or what it costs.  Either way, Shanahan will get ripped apart in the greater DC area.  Not only did they lose, they may have lost their franchise for a good portion of the 2013 season.  One important thing to remember is that they have a capable QB in Kirk Cousins who is more than capable of coming in and winning a few games.  He may not offer the team the chance that RGIII would on a game by game basis, but he isn’t a terrible option and unlike the Eagles who had three healthy QB’s in McNabb, Vick and Kevin Kolb and decided to ship the other two out and throw all their chips on Vick.  This may have been the best thing that happens to the Redskins.  If Cousins does perform very well, he may be able to build up value and the Skins would, in theory, be able to recoup some of the lost draft picks they sent to the Rams in order to draft RGIII.  

 

Carmelo Anthony lost his cool and the Knicks lost the game.  Tell me if you’ve heard that script before.  The Knicks have and did.  Nate Taylor of the New York Times writes that Garnett and the Celtics showed they can rattle Melo and beat the Knicks.  George Willis of the New York Post writes that if the Knicks aren’t careful they can begin to pick up a reputation of being easily thrown off their game.  Dave D’Alessandro of the Star Ledger writes that Doc Rivers and the Celtics pride themselves on championships not on small goals like winning the division.

Last night’s game was awesome from the perspective of the atmosphere in the Garden (the fans were terrific), and atmosphere.  New York is a city full of transplants and there are plenty of shamrock-rocking folk in this town to know that a full home crowd is NOT to be expected but the fact that they were so into this game, it probably ratcheted up the intensity ten fold and probably added to Carmelo’s frustrating evening.  His shots weren’t going in, but KG’s mouth was running and Melo unable to hurt him where it counts decided that the only way to get the last word was to chase KG down in the visitor’s locker room after the game, a place he purposefully he went to without even hesitating for a moment following the final horn.  

I wrote this after the game, but the book on the Knicks is out there.  Rattle the superstar.  Get them complaining to the refs and they will be mentally distracted enough that they won’t be able to recover.  Play them physically and force them to return the aggression, because they can’t do it with control, and they will be completely duped.  The Knicks are becoming that team with a very quick temper and unable to control themselves in situations.  Those that cry that Melo doesn’t get the superstar calls, that’s why.  He spends so much time complaining to refs that most of them don’t ever want to satisfy Melo because nothing is ever enough.  Yes, does Melo get fouled a ton?  Sure.  But basketball is physical when you enter that five feet area between player and basket.  That’s where grinders and maulers have to be bigger than the foe in front of them and impose their will.  Melo has the body, but he does not have the temperment to spend too much time boxing out and setting up shop.  I’m not implying that Melo is weak or soft underneath the basket, but he has to stop being so angry everytime a whistle isn’t blown.  The refs can call that foul every single time but when he doesn’t you keep working.  

Melo plays the kind of physical basketball that you want to see but is so difficult to officiate.  Its not in the same league as Shaq who walked a fine line everytime he swung that arm around and the elbow almost always seemed to miss the defenders face by a whisker.  Its tough to match him physically down there but when a team can, its time for Melo to do other things.  His 18 foot jumper is almost always a good decision.  His turnaround jumper is getting better.  Getting the bigger defender away and driving past them is a skillset he is putting more to use this year.  These are the kind of decisions that you want to see Melo make.  Decisions based on who’s guarding him.  Every team throws multiple defenders on him.  Last night, the Celtics put Bradley on him at times, Paul Pierce, Jeff Green.  Mixing and matching big with small.  It can’t be easy for Melo but he has to understand that his best skill is to draw multiple defenders away from their man so his teammates can get a better shot.  By the time that Kevin Garnett had taken him completely out of that game, he was jacking up threes with 18 left on the shot clock and doing things that old Melo used to do.  Anthony just can’t play mad and its becoming a liability when he gets into those modes where he’s playing out of pure spite for the guy in front of him.  He forgets teammates and the game plan and Woodson needs to have a sit down with him.  

There’s no doubt that Melo is the MVP and nothing about yesterday’s game is going to disprove that, but last night’s game is a continuing novel being written by perennial playoff contenders, teams who have played in the games that the Knicks are making a strong case they will play this year, that if you want to get to that level you must play physical and if you aren’t willing to match the physicality and you are more willing to swing than actually play ball then you don’t belong in the discussion and you probably aren’t ready for the primetime that teams like the Bulls, the Grizzlies and most importantly the Celtics have been to.  

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Knicks vs. Magic Post game react

The New York Knicks remained undefeated at 5-0 thanks to another stellar effort defensively in the fourth quarter.  Led by superstar Carmelo Anthony’s 25 points and team high 8 rebounds, the Knicks held their fourth team in five games to under 90 points and won by double digits for the fifth time in as many games.

Read that sentence over again and try to comprehend what’s going on.  Is this really happening?  Can this be happening?  Does this even seem right?  It seems about as probable as a hurricane devastating thousands in New York or a reputable energy company being unable to restore power to thousands of homes in the most densely populated city in all of America.

But all of these things are and continue to happen.  The fact is, the Knicks are a team in every sense of the word and it’s almost comical now to see NBA TV on a nightly basis try to explain how that came to be.  Buy and sell segments are being filed nightly on sports talk shows and its 50/50: those that have seen this act before in small samples and refuse to believe in its longevity, and those who are willing to take a leap of faith that these Knicks as presently constructed are as good as they are showing.

 Well, its not a question of talent- clearly the names speak for themselves.  It’s how long this act can keep up and how the act will change once Amar’e Stoudemire returns to the lineup.   Coach Mike Woodson has pushed all the right buttons and has gotten through to notorious knuckleheads like J.R. Smith who last night poured in 21 points on what was an off night for the Knick offense.

 Coach Woodson has a team held together by a belief that if they play team basketball they will win.  A simple enough concept but when you realize who this message is going to, the task becomes more and more difficult.  J.R. Smith?  Carmelo Anthony?  Two players who have a reputation of being me-first everybody else second players are buying into the team first mentality that Coach Woodson preached before the season began.  Remember, it was Coach Woodson who began the season by letting players know that if they didn’t buy in they wouldn’t get an opportunity to play.  That message was extended to all players- not just non-superstars and I guess the message stuck.

 Now the magic trick becomes this:  how to get Amar’e Stoudemire to buy in as well?  We knew he had eye issues, knee issues (two microfracture surgeries) and back issues but it’s a mystery what’s keeping him out of games at the moment.  A knee procedure put him on the sideline and will eventually get him back on the court but at what level and exactly what mental state?

 This is a guy who was heralded as the savior of the franchise when he was the lone superstar to take the big city plunge in the famed free agent class of 2010.  He played like an MVP through half the year when, right from under him, the owner who gave him an insurance free contract of 5 years and $100 million, traded for Carmelo Anthony and in turn found himself a new team savior.  Since then Amar’e has played like a player in purgatory.  Not knowing whether to play leader of a franchise he’s no longer the apple of the owner’s eye of, or to play as a dynamic wing man to Carmelo Anthony’s lead role.  The uneasy co-existence over the last year and a half have led many to believe that the relationship can’t work and have ruled out the Knicks from any kind of championship contention.

 Of course, a strong willed coach who knows how to control a locker room can make the easy decision: tell Amar’e when he gets back that he’s the sixth man and he will anchor the team’s second unit which has proven to be a strength.  The current line up with Felton, Kidd, Brewer, Melo (as an undersized 4) and Chandler has been effective begging the question why Amar’e would want to break up a good thing.  Of course that may not even be Coach Woodson’s decision to make.

Many outside the team have held this belief that the Knicks are run by CAA.  Many of their clients are under the employ of the Knicks and it comes as no surprise either.  Then again, James Dolan still calls Isiah Thomas a close friend despite the fact that he drove the Knicks into such an embarrassing state with the Anucha Brown scandal and blunder after blunder with the team’s roster shaping as GM.  What is clear is that what’s best for this franchise right now is to have Amar’e buy in really early. 

 What’s ironic is that if Amar’e really wants to be the leader he was excited to be in 2010 when he came to NY and declared to the NBA world that the Knicks were back, he would announce that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to help continue this success.  He would take on whatever role Mike Woodson gives him.  But again the question that’s begging to be asked is: who is going to make that decision?  With the Knicks you never know.

 

NOTES:

Orlando’s offense and surprisingly stingy defense made this a close game till the fourth quarter when the Knick defense overwhelmed the upstart Magic squad into a meager thirteen 4th quarter points.  The Knicks pulled a Magic act of their own- transforming the Magic back into the team that- to borrow a phrase from former NFL head coach Dennis Green- they are who we thought they were.  Lacking a go-to scorer, though Magic Center Nikola Vucevic was doing his best impersonation of one, the Magic couldn’t get any easy buckets when the Knicks tightened up.  Eventually the Knicks pulled away despite the Magic’s best intentions to keep it close.

 The credit post game was given to Jason Kidd’s demeanor in the huddle as he calmed his teammates down as things were beginning to get a little tight amongst the Knicks who were seeing their perfect season go down to a team many expected to be competing for a lottery pick.

 That’s the beauty of this team:  there are too many veteran players on this team that perspective and leadership won’t be lacking.  If the veterans hold the stars to a standard on a nightly basis it will be interesting to see how far they can maximize the talents on this team.

– One guy I was impressed with on the Magic is St Johns’ and Queens product Mo Harkless.  He’s a guy that’s a part of this youth movement going on as a result of the Dwight Howard trade and I’m excited about how far this kid can go.  He’s got the skillset of a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the sense that he’s a jack of all trades and he’s got interesting dimensions to him that allows him to play defensively against a  number of positions.  He held his own against Carmelo Anthony last night.  Melo never had a comfortable shot last night and that’s a credit to Harkless’ defense and Melo’s solid night is a credit to how good a basketball player Carmelo Anthony is.

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Daily Rounds 12/13/2011

The Mets are facing financial troubles.  Again.  According to a report in the New York Times, they took out a $40 million loan from Bank of America for working capital.  Mets officials released a statement saying that sale of minority shares have been going well.  

And so it goes for Met fans.  A week after losing Jose Reyes because the price wasn’t right, information comes out that maybe no price would’ve been right.  Look I’m not the biggest fan of the Wilpons.  I think its ridiculous how they’ve run the franchise these last few years given what we now know about them and their link to Bernie Madoff.  The Mets are a joke now in the NL East and much of it has to do with the board room workings of the first family of clowns that run that organization.  They have damaged much of their reputation and short of repaying that loan from MLB of $25 million the Mets will need to do a huge salvage job and hope that Sandy Alderson and his basement bargain shopping can take the Mets out of the cellar.

I’m pretty confident that he won’t and so it goes.  Bud Selig has long been in cahoots with the Wilpons because they have been huge proponents of the commissioner even getting him elected to the post initially.  He owes them something and now they owe him something.  He’s been repaid the favor.  Expecting Bud Selig to do the right thing and end this tyranny would be like asking Snookie not to be annoying or the Kardashians to NOT preen for the camera.  Ain’t gonna happen.  So Met fans linger in this world of spite knowing that their owners don’t have money to spend and hope that we’re dumb enough to reload their coffers.

Unfortunately, all it takes is for the Mets to play well.  But now, I feel as though the only way for the Mets to do well in the long term is for the coffers to stay empty and no one show up at the ball park.  To further peril the bottom line of the Coupon family until they realize that they can no longer count on financial institutions to fund their game of baseball ownership and finally end this long twisting melodrama and give hope to Met fans who still like to hold on to their once famous slogan: Ya gotta believe.

No Chris Paul news to report other than to report that the deal set in place with the Clippers that seemed beyond fair is now also in the dirt with the Laker offer.    Or is it?  According to Yahoo sports, the NBA is trying to resuscitate talks with the Clippers because they remain the only team willing to discuss young players and draft picks, the kind of haul that David Stern is looking to recoup in a CP3 deal. BUT the Clippers say they are over it and moving on.  For now.  Nothing is forever in the NBA.    Ken Berger of CBSSports said that this whole episode has been an exercise in folly.  Meanwhile, Chauncey Billups is now a Clipper after being claimed through the amnesty auction and has been warned by the league according to David Aldridge of NBA.com to report to the team or be hit with some form of discipline.  Mitch Kupchak said the Lakers are “pursuing big deals” and Chris Sheridan from Sheridanhoops.com wonders what the plural in that statement could mean.  The Dwight Howard sweepstakes took an interesting turn when he came in front of the media and seemingly did a 180 and said he would like to stay in Orlando.  Shannon Owens of the Orlando Sentinel said the Magic’s franchise center is sucking the fan base into the vortex of his emotional relationship with the team.  Speaking of franchises being hijacked, according to several media outlets the Nets majority owner, Mikhail Prokhorov will run against Vladimir Putin to become the next President of Russia.  As always Peter Vecsey’s expertise is needed in this matter.  

How much weirder and crazier can this sequence of events get for the NBA?  Now, it seems as though the NBA is reversing course from its unusual practice of being like that guy in your fantasy football league, saying ok i’ll trade Tom Brady but I need Drew Brees AND Arian Foster.  That kind of two for one spectacular isn’t getting it done and won’t in the end.  The fact is, the NBA HAS created its own embarrassing storyline and generated enough negativity that its impossible not to envision David Stern as anything but the axis of evil.  The Commissioner has now cancelled two trades that likely would’ve been accepted by every other General Manager in the League and is now purposely, it seems, pushing the carrot farther and farther from the mouths of those who crave the superstar PG.

Not only is he doing irreparable damage to his legacy he’s now becoming a farce and perhaps unaware of the public sentiment surrounding him.  If in his bat cave he hasn’t gotten the signal from Gothamites that he’s now loathed and laughed at in multiple circles for hijacking NBA storylines and creating a sense of unenvying hatred from his employees it seems the only thing he can offer is but to one player: to teach Lebron how to be hated by all and still do your job undeterred.

The Chris Paul deal is dead and I don’t expect anyone, but the NBA on its hands and knees at Donald Sterling’s LA mansion, to come crawling asking for some version of the reported deal to be agreed upon.  But that won’t happen, we all know this.  David Stern is looking to sell off the Hornets and without a franchise PG in tow, he will not be able to get nearly the value he received from these other owners who overpaid for franchises who consistently see red.  For any owner to go into an already shortened season and try to convince the star PG to resign with the team and get a handle of the vision it would take a gargantuan personality like Mark Cuban or Mikhail Prokhorov to pull off such a feat and those guys own teams already.

The sad part of this is, the NBA is making one of its league’s better ambassadors a sour puss the entire way.  How can Chris Paul focus on his job if his job is constantly evolving?  He’s a Laker one day then not.  Then a Clipper and then not.  This push and pull effect has to make him feel like a child going through multiple divorces.

Meanwhile this Dwight Howard thing has gotten silly.  His reversal in stance is peculiar to say the least but not without any recourse.  I believe he does love it in Orlando.  I think he wants unparalleled power there to allow him to be part of the decision making process which would undermine the general manager who obviously handles those duties.  Dwight is under the illusion that the Magic will somehow give him the team he craves and the Magic, I hope, are not drinking the same juice that Howard had before that press conference.  Because, like Ken Berger wrote, if the Magic think that they can keep Dwight they are looking to get burned.  I think he knows his trade options are slim and the Lakers won’t offer both Bynum and Gasol for him and so that deal is done.  Who cares about a Mavs first round pick?  Congratulations you got Andrew Bynum and his horrible knees and a first round pick in the 20’s where you’ll get another experimental piece.  See ya in 15 years when you have your next franchise center that we’ll take.

No, I think the Magic’s best offer comes from the Nets who have all but stalled their operations waiting for the Magic to hear their offer and respond and I don’t think they will.  The Nets will HAVE to get some kind of indication that they are being discussed as a real possibility or else they may jump into the Nene sweepstakes which essentially takes them out of the Howard bidding.  The Lakers may be working on several big deals but its unclear where Mitch Kupchack is going.  Maybe he’ll trade Pau Gasol for a commitment from David Beckham sitting in the front row at every home game and Tim Tebow giving motivational pep talks prior to Laker games.  Atleast there’ll be more heart in that team.

The game of musical chairs continues and one chair that is taken is Chauncey and its with the Clippers who may have used this to signal that they are indeed officially out of the CP3 sweepstakes.  By claiming Billups they have taken a huge chance that they are indeed contenders and won’t use Chauncey to mentor their young players.  You know because the Clips are full of veteran players.  But I like this move, if Chauncey has his head on straight.  For Chauncey he gets to run the point for a very young explosive team and yes, I get that he will have to play the role he loathed but let’s face it, even if he started on the Heat, during crunch time who would you rather have bringing the ball up the court?  Lebron or Chauncey?  The best bet is to have Lebron run the point this season anyway and just try and get bigger.  Obtaining size SHOULD have been the Heat’s number one goal.  Riley should’ve given Kurt Thomas a call.  They need a tough physical presence in the paint.  No he can’t run but you don’t expect Thomas to be on the receiving end of any of Lebron’s alley oops.  The Heat once again went into free agency without any real game plan except to try and get bodies.

But I digress, Chauncey’s addition is huge for the Clips who need a veteran presence to balance out the age and lack of experience they have.  They are a team on the rise and yes, if they got CP3, they vault into that Thunder territory as that next team that will contend for years to come, but having Chauncey on the roster is the best thing for guys like Eric Gordon and Eric Bledsoe and co , guys who will have to grow around Blake Griffin.  Let’s understand one thing: aside from his ability to throw down monstrous dunks and catch alley oops and make highlight reels, he hasn’t exhibited much else in the realm of winning.  Everybody wants to play with Blake, but nobody’s won with Blake.  Winning has to start this season.  Chauncey is a good person to get that started.

Interim title notwithstanding, Glen Grunwald is handling the Knicks GM job as if he were actually running the show.  Alan Hahn of Newsday and soon to be MSG, says that this is quite the first impression he’s making.  Marc Berman of the New York Post believes that the new GM is making all the right moves even if he’s a lame duck.  

Look, this is either headed for a storybook end or a horror movie finish with nobody making it out alive.  Knick fans have been ever so patient over the last few years and were even willing to wait for Chris Paul to arrive, but now that the Knicks have virtually left themselves in no position to acquire the star PG, it becomes apparent that the time is now.  The time has come for the Knicks to finally stop waiting and start doing.  If this is the time, then great.  I haven’t hid my love for this move as it finally means that the Knicks have given up their delusions of grandeur and proceeded to do business like regular folks.  They have a core of in their prime players and now must build around them.  Do they need an excellent point guard?  No.  In D’Antoni’s system they can do without.  Even in Phil Jackson’s triangle offense, you wouldn’t require a great point guard, just one that can make the smart decisions.  Phil had BJ Armstrong, Ron Harper, and Derek Fisher all these years running point on championship teams.  Don’t feed me the garbage that he has to have an additional all star to coach this team.

Do I think Dolan goes after Phil?  Yes but only if his buddy Isiah tells him to.  It would behoove Knick fans to get off their crazy, hair brained idea for a restraining order which restricts Dolan and Isiah from being within 200 yards of one another and deal with the fact that if they want some kind of order restored the ONLY way to do that is by poisoning Isiah’s mind with reason.  Or have Isiah poison CP3’s mind with dreams of riches in NY supplanting the Mid Level exception which would be all the Knicks would be able to afford to give to Chris Paul after this season.

Either way, this decision was not just needed but the decisiveness was welcome.  Grunwald made a bold decision to go where no D’Antoni has gone before.  Maybe Mike kept the D silent all these years in his name and now can pronounce it with Tyson in the fold.

 

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Daily Rounds 12/9/2011 Part 1

So how was your day yesterday?  In a day of whirlwind of activity of mega deals, mini-mega deals, and deals that got nixed at the 11th hour, the world of sports has plenty to talk and discuss this morning and here we go.  We’re going to go even more in depth with even more links.  More reaction.  More coverage.  More opinion. (One) More angry Dan Gilbert letter for us all to take in on the Daily Rounds.  Compose yourself and get ready.  Its so much we had to break it up into two parts.  Part One is all NBA.

Rights Reserved Getty images

Early yesterday, after hopes had been dashed that the New Orleans Hornets were nearing a deal to send Chris Paul elsewhere the Knicks moved fast and decisively and were on the verge of signing Tyson Chandler, Paul’s buddy to a deal.  Marc Berman said it was a surprising set of events that started with the notion that they would not be able to pull off a deal for Chris Paul according to multiple sources (aka common sense).  Here’s where it gets weird.  A three team trade had been agreed to in principle that would’ve looked like as follows was nixed by league officials citing “basketball reasons” for their reasoning:

Lakers GET:               PG Chris Paul

Rockets GET:        C/PF  Pau Gasol

Hornets GET:        C/PF  Luis Scola
                                        SG  Kevin Martin
                                        PF  Lamar Odom
                                        G    Goran Dragic
2012 First Round Draft Pick (Top Five protected) 

The NBA, owners of the Hornets stepped in and decided to squash the deal on account of a majority of owners complaining to David Stern about the deal.  We have reaction.  JA Adande says leave it to the league to kill this.  John Reid of the Times-Picauyne says this will make for an awkward start of training camp.  Johnathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle opines: move over Donald Sterling, we have a new worst owner in all of basketball.  Mark Medina of the LA Times says it will be MORE controversial and MORE talked about than the Decision last summer…and like that, will have its share of consequences.  Ian Thomsen of SI.com says this shows the problem with the NBA owning the Hornets.  “The owners half-pushed this, and Stern took it the rest of the way,” a league source told Yahoo! Sports according to Adrian Wojnarowski putting full impetus on the ownership of the Hornets.  Mark Kriegel of Fox Sports says the the NBA robbed him of writing his story and now he wants revenge.  (hilarious story, please read).  Yahoo Sports put the entire Dan Gilbert letter to the commissioner up on its website.  Finally, Phil Jackson, the Zen master and hopefully soon to be coach of the New York Knicks saw this happening a year ago.  

Here is by far the funniest tweet I’ve heard yet about the proposed trade so far:

Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN)
12/8/11 6:37 PM
Give Derek Fisher all the credit. All those hours negotiating with David Stern & Lakers end up with Chris Paul. Another clutch Fisher moment

That’s just a sampling of the countrywide set of articles that will appear in Newspapers across the country.  First off, let’s begin by saying that the proposed three team trade that would’ve sent Chris Paul to the Lakers was fair.  You hear me Knick fans?  That was a fair deal.  Not many times can you say that the Lakers got an all star player back without feeling as though they had muscled that deal through but in this case it was.  The Lakers were trading the reigning sixth man of the year and a perennial all star big man and compromising their size to get an elite PG in his prime.  The Hornets made out like bandits because they got Odom, a serviceable back up PG in Dragic who I loved (in Phoenix) and a rebounder/masher in Scola who’s 18 pts and 8 rebounds would’ve adequately replaced David West’s 18 points and 8 rebounds.  And the Rockets would’ve gotten a center in his prime to replace the one they lost and reports are circulating that had this deal gone through, they would’ve paired him up with Nene whom the Rockets were thought to be going after hard.  Which would’ve given them the two center pairing they craved.  That draft pick?   That’s the Knicks draft pick they traded to the Rockets so the Knicks, relatively, are involved.

This was by all accounts a great deal for everybody involved.  Everyone but party pooper Stern and the 29 other owners who decided that it was best that the rich NOT get richer and the poor MUST stay poorer.  IF the deal is indeed nixed, this leaves EVERY OTHER trade possibility out of the question for Dell Demps the Hornets GM who got the best possible deal he was going to get.  No way in hell does the league push through any other deal no matter what kind of haul under any circumstances.  This effectively has put the NBA in a no-win situation.  The same thing the owners had fought for; taking the leverage out of superstar player’s hands, is exactly what was at work here.  David Stern, the tactician knew that no explanation would’ve sufficed except the most logical one.

How in the hell can he possibly sell a franchise to a rich person in this recession IF the Hornets are superstar-less.  Chris Paul IS the major draw.  He’s the face of the franchise.  A face that is certainly souring on the possibility that a trade that he would’ve welcomed has now been nixed because the NBA decided that for basketball reasons it was not fair.  Give me a break.  Now the 29 owners and David Stern are analysts and GMs?  No, they have guys who are paid to evaluate talent.  They are paid by other people so they can PAY their superstar employees and small market owners were probably up in arms about the NBA possibly sending another superstar to another big market team for a haul.

Of course the chance that any of these owners even SAW the pieces moving in this trade are slim.  All they heard were the principals in the deal trading superstars for elite superstar.  Now the NBA has firmly placed itself in Darth Vader territory.  David Stern is now seen as the ultimate overlord who will NEVER play nice with players and sets up a situation in which his decision making and his overall attitude towards players have turned nasty.  Those Wade rumors about yelling at Stern to not talk to him like a kid sound just about right.  Stern is NOT going to come out of this unscathed and now, we can add to his obituary that he tried to control the fate of superstars and it eventually cost him his job.  Look, I don’t think Stern WIL lose his job but this is the kind of defiant, in the face of logic just to get your way kind of decision that will always engender ill will between you and the constituency that you are negotiating with.  This will put pressure on owners to either stand behind him 100%, where three already won’t and I’m sure Miami, New York won’t either considering they are in the superstar team building business.  That kind of public pressure to step down will force Stern to re-evaluate whether, at 69 this is even worth it anymore.  He saved the NBA from a long nuclear winter and got the league back in time for an upcoming season that promises to be watched more and talked about more than any in recent memory.  If the lockout hadn’t already whet your appetite, prepare for the main course of a season and a dessert of a playoffs that will surely be the payoff for all the drama and labor strife we had to go through.  This only further proves that despite a labor deal the owners are going to always raise a fuss and try and limit player movement anyway they can.

This also sets a dangerous precedent moving forward.  Forget any deal involving Paul this year.  If this doesn’t go down no deal can, is the thinking here.  The NBA saying this is for basketball reasons is more salt to the wound of three fan bases that thought they had a fair deal.  This was going to effectively take away the huge advantage the Lakers had with their size in the paint.  All Pau was missing last season was heart.  All Bynum is missing is his ability to stay healthy all season and yet you’re betting against a guy who’s mettle can be fixed against a guy who’s got metal fixed in him?  Surgically?  I loved this move because I thought this weakened the Lakers and CP3 was not a definite to sign there long term, even though the Knicks made a move that would’ve made a move to NY impossible, but to nix this deal for basketball reasons is almost spitting in the face of sure fire logic.  A bunch of owners who were cry babies, namely Dan Gilbert (again), enabled Stern to pull this off and now Stern alone fights this battle.  We all know Gilbert is crazy.

As for possible legal action that CP3 and the union can take against the NBA, I can’t see how that would be possible given the fact that the NBA owns the team.  The only recourse they have is to fight a long drawn out legal battle challenging the league’s legal right to own one of its franchises which competes with the other 29 which I think they could win but I don’t think either side is ready and willing to go through with that which makes this basically a dead issue in terms of actually happening but one which has legs and will follow Stern for a long time.  We always thought David Stern had more power than he did, now we know.  So now the rumors of fixing lottery drafts (Knicks) and every other shady deal during his tenure has to be fair game right?  Stern has to be seen like Michael Corleone in the Godfather.  All these reporters are like Kay wanting Stern to admit he has final control.  Stern unwilling to acknowledge it gives us all one opportunity to admit he nixed this deal, does he lie to our face?  He will get in front of a microphone eventually to address this, as he should.  I’ll be interested to hear what he has to say.

As stated earlier and to give further backdrop to the main story, the Knicks did NOT wait around for a deal they knew they could not complete.  They surprised the NBA world by being “98%” close to signing Tyson Chandler.  Howard Beck of the New York Times says this immediately improves the front court, making it one of the best in the league and effectively ends their CP3 pursuit as they will be over the salary cap.  Some hurdles exist including clearing Chauncey Billups’ $14.2 million contract for this season in order to accomodate Chandler’s 4 year $58 million deal which would be through the amnesty clause, something Billups is sour on.  Marc Berman of the Post looks at all the consequences this deal has for the Knicks in the short term but lauds this deal as forming the biggest frontcourt in NBA history.  I dont know about all that Marc, but providing they all stay healthy this should be good.  BUT, cheer up Knick fans, a provision in the newly ratified CBA as of yesterday would allow the CP3 to Knicks to STILL happen.  It will all depend on Amare and Melo though according to Alan Hahn of Newsday.  Here is his plan for the Knicks regarding this provision.  

There are a few moving parts here that need to be addressed.  First, Berman’s report while highly praising to the Knicks, reminds us that optimism must be guarded.  First, the Knicks have to weigh all options including how to remove Billups contract and how to get rid of Turiaf’s contract.  Both together would free up over $18 million in cap space that would go to signing Chandler and the two rookies the Knicks drafted this year, Josh Harrelson and Imam Shumpert.  This takes them out of the Grant Hill sweepstakes who is deciding between Phoenix and San Antonio who decided they were going to amnesty Richard Jefferson, although that hasn’t been confirmed.  Until all those secondary moves can be done, and it won’t be easy, the Knicks will NOT be able to push that Chandler deal through.  Unless of course, they just decide to enter luxury tax territory for this year and the next which I think they should.

Now comes this from Alan Hahn that says that players CAN restructure contracts in order to fit under the salary cap in order to make room for others on their team.  Now obviously this doesn’t mean that New York would be the only place Paul looks but if he wanted to come play with Carmelo as badly as people hinted and if both Stat and Melo would be willing to restructure their deals this COULD happen.  So forget all I said about the  Melo deal effectively ruining any chance of us getting Chris Paul this year.  That’s on hold.  Now, Melo has a chance to really put his money where his mouth is.  You really wanna win Melo?  Prove it.  Convince Amar’e to do the same.  Show that you guys are about the greater good.  Do this for Knick fans who have gone through a dry spell.  We look fondly on a 90’s team that went to TWO FINALS in an entire decade like it was a team that went to 8 finals and won 5 championships.  This is a city that lives and breathes basketball.  Playing in an arena that means more to basketball than any other arena means to any other sport.

Even if he doesn’t come, the Knicks can still get a PG in the free agent market.  Jamaal Tinsley who I liked, signed with Utah and perhaps a reunion with Raymond Felton may be in the works.  How about Steve Nash?  Would he come even if D’Antoni ISNT with the team next year?  These are all questions that can’t be answered right now but this decision doesn’t mean doors are closed to a CP3 future but it also means that the Knicks can turn their attention to other areas where they have more pressing needs.

Rights Reserved Gettys images

What does Chandler coming to the Knicks mean?  It means that the Knicks have effectively decided that in order to really improve, the Knicks need to bring someone defensive minded to anchor the center of the court which is precisely what Chandler will do.  When healthy, Chandler thinks about rebounding, defense and scoring on easy passes.  We’re talking about a guy who will for once think about ONLY one thing.  Think Patrick Ewing but ONLY defense, not also having the burden of offensively carrying his team.  His size will give the Knicks a front court that has Melo as the shortest guy at 6’7, and Amar’e playing the position he was meant to play at PF.  The Knicks are a MUCH improved ball club with this trade.  Only worry I have is his injury history and the Knicks history with big men post-Ewing is worrysome but he’s 29 and all we’re asking him to do is play defense so that should help.  Hopefully he doesn’t go Eddy Curry on us.

Here’s the bad part of this deal.  Sources are saying that Billups upon hearing that he would likely be amnestied, leaving him open for bidding to all 30 franchises without the option of choosing his next destination which COULD end up being a bad team, was irate according to his agent and without the Knicks blessing packed his stuff up and went home.  Billups is a professional who has done his fair share of traveling and has a collection of uniforms with his name on the back that could make any jersey collector blush.  But he was really set on playing for the Knicks and then leaving for Denver at the end of this season.  He returns to Denver as training camps around the NBA open today and deals can be made official.  I didn’t expect Billups to take such a poor turn on this deal but I understand.  Its not easy to leave Denver the way he did.  He never wanted to come to the Knicks in the first place.  His roots are in Denver and he left his children at home and so with these new developments, it appears that Billups will be headed into another situation that he is not pleased with and let’s be fair: he has every right to be pissed.  I would be too.  This is a veteran chasing after one more ring before he eventually retires and goes to work in the Denver front office.  I’m sad for him but I got one message: this is a business.  Move on.  You’re a pro, start acting like one.

The problem isn’t getting rid of Billups as he was never a realistic part of the long term plan here, its using the amnesty on him.  The Knicks by rule get to use the amnesty clause only once and only for players signed prior to July 1, 2011 which may have come in handy should Amar’e Stoudemire’s knees blow out one day driving to the hoop.  The contract as we all know is uninsured for 5 years and $100 million.  Its just a lot of risk involved here.  The amnesty clause by definition would erase one  contract off a team’s cap to give them salary relief.  It can only be used once and the player would still be owed that money by the team who originally was responsible for it.  That player would then be entered into a bidding war in which the team with the highest bid would automatically get the player giving the player absolutely NO SAY in the process.  THIS is why Billups is pissed because he wants to go to a winner, a wish the Knicks wanted to honor but unfortunately could not because the Mavs refused to take Billups salary as part of a sign and trade for Chandler.

 

Today’s start of training camps and official opening to free agency also means that deals can be announced and one major announcement came this morning: Dwight Howard would like to be traded.  It appears his first option is…wait for it…NEW JERSEY.  The Nets could offer 2 draft picks and Brook Lopez and take back any stinky contract (paging Hedo Turkoglou) that Orlando has giving the Magic unbelievable amounts of cap space for the upcoming offseason.  This according to the Orlando Sentinel who believe Howard has made his wishes known already.  

As much as Otis Smith will view this deal as the best deal, the CP3 nixed trade will have repercussions because the Lakers may say screw it and go after Dwight and offer up Bynum and Odom effectively ending any chances that CP3 ends up in LA LA land as well because the haul that the Hornets get would be compromised with no Odom involved.  That’s if the Hornets are still ABLE to deal Paul to the Lakers and IF the Hornets were willing to get back everyone minus Odom in the deal.  They would probably have to get back another player or draft pick somehow in the deal.  It gets complicated but the Lakers have options here and it appears they only have one now that the league has made it clear to every single team that NOBODY will be trading for Chris Paul.  Paul will now be a free agent and this sets up a scenario where teams will try to get way under the cap to sign him, or Deron Williams OR Dwight Howard.

The Dwight Howard to Nets makes sense because of what the Nets WILL become in the future.  The Nets can offer Dwight the big market next year he craves.  They can give him the star player wingman in Deron Williams who told the Nets he likes the organization and what they are building.  There’s a lot to like about New Jersey for Dwight and the chance to build his own legacy, completely unique as opposed to being another name in a list of names that have come in the past HAS to be appealing to Dwight who has to be the most appetizing piece of free agency meat thrown in.

Who comes out winners?  The Clippers.  They just signed Caron Butler for 3 years and $24 million.  The Power of Blake allowed the Clips for once to outbid a team for the services of a player who I feel can come back strong and help.  Yes, Butler is coming off major knee surgery. Yes he’s going to the Clippers where ONLY bad things can happen and playing for an owner that ultimately he will grow to despise. But he’s going to a young team with loads of promise that pending the CP3 trade won’t be made can contend in the Western Conference.  We shall see.

The Magic can basically get the Lakers and Nets to bid against each other over 48hours and get the absolute best offer and take it.  Otis Smith the Magic GM knows he is NOT going to be able to retain the services of one, Dwight Howard, and no amount of drunk calls from rich white guys is going to stop him from exploring his options on the free market.  One which could open up wide for the big smile-having guy.

Makes the rest of the season interesting.

Also, if you want to know about the amnesty provision, Larry Coon of ESPN’s TrueHoop Blog puts it in terms even a 5 year old can understand.  Just cause I can and I love, LOVE his articles and his unique writing style which I’ve tried to copy myself to no avail, Peter Vecsey’s Hoop Du Jour column is back and starts with this stunning turn of events and his take and how believes this is SAVING NOLA.  

These two articles were found late and added later, but here’s the gist of Vecsey’s column which makes sense.  New Orleans is losing the superstar.  They are giving up the most.  A town that has lost so much since Katrina is now losing its star player and who knows what happens once a new owner takes over?  And by the way, what owner will be willing to buy a franchise star-less franchise?  The value of the team would go down and may be had on the cheap.  Now that may sound appealing to somebody out there but the NBA’s owners may not feel this way.  If they rejected this deal, what then would they say is a fair market value for a team that is about to lose their superstar point guard sooner or later.  Vecsey believes Stern came out a hero in New Orleans while looking like an idiot everywhere else.

I agree somewhat with Peter’s logic.  Without Paul and with the pieces they were going to get back they were no better than a .500 ball club and no one loves that.  With Paul they were a few shots away from taking down the Lakers.  Think about that.  The LAKERS.  That’s the CP3 difference and that’s what needs to be taken into account.  Paul’s “WoW” tweet notwithstanding, he’s beloved in this community and everywhere around the league.  You can believe the hyperbole and rumor that this was payback for Paul’s presence during labor meetings (the only daily superstar presence by the way) from the other owners in the small markets namely Dan Gilbert, but I don’t think that was it.  This was about the greater good in the owner’s eyes.  However, this won’t stop Paul from exploring his options.  In fact, now there is NO WAY he signs with any of the small market teams and EVERY CHANCE he goes to one of the big markets to further stick it into the teams.  Whatever Gilbert was fighting for, he is going to lose in the long run.  This is going hardest back on to Stern and on to Gilbert who star players already view with a slanted look and now won’t get a patted eyelash his way.

I hope the NBA is happy.  They got what they want.  For this season.  Next season look for superstars to talk and make sure they don’t let this happen again.

 

 

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